Book Review [4]: The Spy by Paulo Coelho

the spy

In his 16th book, Paulo Coelho has sprinkled the fiction over the non-fictitious story of the great Mata Hari giving it his own typical style of slow rhythmic sentences with multiple quotes. However, he has chosen this book to be a fast read, unlike most of his other books.

Mata Hari was the name Margaretha Zelle chose for herself when she arrived in Paris after leaving her drunk and sadist husband who was a Dutch Army Officer. In Paris, she became a dancer who with her exotic dance performances enthralled not only men but also women.

Her first mistake was to agree to work as a double agent for France and Germany, at the time of World War 1, just because she wanted to stay in the city she loved: Paris — though she did not provide any secret information to any of the countries. Another mistake was her narcissism, as his lawyer told her, “I saw that you were more interested in showing your importance than in defending your innocence. (In court.) Her mistake was also to take help of prominent men by seducing them. So, when it came to helping her, they were all too concerned about their reputation than in saving her life.

Paulo has chosen a unique way of writing the book through letters. First by Mata Hari to her lawyer, Mr. Clunet, and second, vice versa. Nevertheless, this book felt strangely incomplete and left us wanting to know more about Mata Hari’s inner voice and also what happened after her execution. Personally, I wanted to know a lot more about her daughter and also about Mata Hari from her perspective.

As Paulo mentions in the blurb, Mata Hari’s only crime was to be an independent woman but, to be honest, her crime was to be a woman whose brave dance made her independent. Then, as she did a few minor mistakes and aged, men did what they always do with women like her. In 1947, after a few years of Mata Hari’s execution, the prosecutor of Mata Hari confided to a journalist saying, “Between us, the evidence we had was so poor that it wouldn’t have been fit to punish a cat.”

Those who are Paulo Coelho fans would love this book since Adultery was quite disappointing. Those who are not into Paulo’s books will definitely be happy to know about the woman who took fate into her hands but lost the fight, yet winning a place in history as one of the strong women. Believe me, Paulo has tried his best not to sound as indistinct as he does in his other books.

Happy Reading!

 

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Book Review [3]: Black Milk by Elif Shafak

black milk

Each human has voices inside his head. Those voices are either united making a human complete or — in most scenarios — they fight with each other inside a human brain and one of the voices benefits at the expense of others until some other voice takes over.

Elif Shafak’s head was also a messy one with 4 voices in her head which increased to 6 overtime – fighting, winning, losing. Elif was a single young woman, traveling and making her career as a writer, all while trying to grasp herself.

At the age of 35, when she was still against marriage, she met Eyup at a tavern in Istanbul and ended up marrying him in Berlin. At 37, when she was still horrified at the idea of having kids, she got pregnant and ended up giving birth to a daughter. With every miracle, her head got messier and then, after two months of delivery, she could not save herself from falling into Postpartum depression which affects a lot of new mothers. Despite the fact that she was irritated by her voices, she loved them and her depression locked all those voices and engulfed her.

What was worse? She could not do the only thing she loved more than any other: write.

Black Milk unfolds her struggle of making peace with the voices in her head and getting out of the Postpartum depression after the birth of her baby in 2006. Along with that, Elif Shafak tells the stories of the personal and public lives of various women writers. To me, it seemed like she was trying to interpret her life keeping their lives in view but in the end, decided to discover her own path while acknowledging theirs.

Black Milk gives an impression of Elif’s journal. She has fearlessly talked of her vulnerable brain exposing herself as a woman, a writer, and a mother. For me, as a woman writer, Black Milk put me in awe. Writing such a book was indeed something a writer hardly dares to do. Most of the autobiographies talk about the outer struggles of a writer; Elif Shafak has aimed the book on her inner struggles.

Since this book highly deals with feminity and writer-hood, I would suggest this book in the first place to women writers. In the second place, this book is for all women. In the third place, I would keep male writers. If the genre interests them, male readers can give it a read too. Though, somehow, I am sure they will leave the book midway.

I would always be grateful to Elif Shafak for this book since I cannot stop thinking of writers, writing, and books. The sound of tapping at the keyboard has become my favorite music. What better gift for a writer than this?

Back to Elif Shafak: After her daughter, she gave birth to a son. At the end of the book, she tells her readers:

Our daughter’s name is Shehrazad Zelda – the former from the charming storyteller of the east, the latter from Zelda Fitzgerald. Eighteen months later we had a son, Emir Zahir – the former from the old traditions of the East, the later from the story by Borges, “The Zahir,” and a book by Paulo Coelho, “The Zahir.”

Elif sure is a crazy woman. May history never forget her. Amen.

Book Review [2]: Half Girlfriend by Chetan Bhagat

Half_Girlfriend

As soon as I catch a book, I go for the blurb. Half Girlfriend’s blurb was short, cute, but not so promising yet I bought it for a light read someday. So, the story is about a basketball boy who falls in love with a basketball girl but the girl is not ready for any relationship; however, they become good friends. But since boys will always be boys, he spoils the friendship because of his impatient desire to get physical.

His journey begins then. He is madly in love and quitting is not in his blood. He has to get his girl back. Chetan Bhagat has written this book in a cute playful manner considering the relationships of today’s India (and Pakistan). With a desi style, he has embedded the book with humor and emotional surprises, also raising the matter of ethnicity, class, and English mania faced by the country.

Both Madhav and Riya, the main characters, are strong and vivid. You can connect with them in a few pages. Even though the book is simple and a light read, it makes you laugh out loud and cry at times which is also what makes it gripping. *God! I couldn’t even give myself a pee break*

Now on the honest anti side, the book is as unrealistic as the second coming of Christ. No boy goes that far for a girl with whom he fell in love while he was in college but it is not that big a problem since it is always cheerful to have such romantic boys in books.

Half Girlfriend is not my preferred genre since it is too shallow for me but anyone who wants to forget himself and his life and problems and wants to dive into a book which makes his heart bubble up with laughs and cries and doesn’t preach can go for it. After all, you cannot always go for the all the preachy realistic mature stuff. Not that Chetan Bhagat has not taught you anything in his book. Look what a wonderful lesson he has given:

Even though I was in pain, I remembered the golden rule: If you live in a hostel, never throw away food.

*Winks* Happy Reading! 

 

Book Review [1]: The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald

gatsby-original-cover-art

Nick Carraway was born in Midwest. After serving in World War 1, he moved to West Egg to test his luck as a bond salesman. He was spending an ordinary life. But Jay Gatsby was not like him.

So, when Nick Carraway gets to know Jay Gatsby he is compelled to tell his story to the world. At least, that is the idea presented by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his famous classical masterpiece ‘The Great Gatsby’ which is set in the 20s when America was celebrating a Jazz age.

At first, this book did not attract publicity Fitzgerald expected. However, later, after his death, this book became the best novel of the 20th century and the second best English language novel of the same era.

Gatsby is a rich resident of East Egg throwing lavish parties each weekend which are attended by the whole town. Carraway, as his new neighbor, attends one of his parties where he meets Gatsby who after a certain time reveals his love for beautiful Daisy Buchanan.

In attempting to recapture the past, Gatsby’s story comes to an unexpected halt which notes that the cruelty disrupts the beauty and simplicity of life. Besides, it explores the consequences of going after unworthy dreams.

These are the last lines of novel which summarize the whole agenda of the story:

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning-

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Fitzgerald was successful in putting the plot because of which this book attracted fame. The lack is in the characters as they are flat; readers are not able to empathize with any of them. Yet there are places when you can feel with characters as close as Fitzgerald intended his readers to feel. The writer has put enough work into this book that readers will not end up regretting to read the story of Gatsby even if they do not enjoy it.